Spanning the ACC: Ga. Tech ready for showdown with Irish; Backups come up big in Week 2
They will arrive at the same place at the same time with the same record, but they will leave as two totally different teams.
On Saturday, No. 14 Georgia Tech (2-0) will head to South Bend to face off against No. 8 Notre Dame (2-0) in a matchup that will propel the winner up the AP Poll and send the loser out of the College Football Playoff discussion.
Notre Dame, a football independent, will not be able to pad its resume with a conference championship later in the season if it loses to the Yellow Jackets.
Meanwhile, Georgia Tech can still win an ACC title if it falls to the Fighting Irish, but winning the conference this season with at least one loss might not carry a tremendous amount of weight with the CFP panel.
Though they may have the same records, their path to Saturday’s game has greatly differed. Notre Dame’s road to its showdown with the Yellow Jackets has been tough as the Irish has lost a key player in each of its victories and on Tuesday it was announced that starting tight end Durham Smythe could be out for the year after suffering shoulder and knee injuries.
The Fighting Irish kicked off the year with 38-3 victory at home against Texas, but lost starting junior running back Tarean Folston (knee) in the process.
Over the weekend, Notre Dame’s depth chart suffered a bigger hit when quarterback Malik Zaire sustained a season-ending ankle injury against Virginia.
The Irish managed to overcome the loss, but needed late heroics. Sophomore backup quarterback Deshone Kizer came in and rallied Notre Dame, completing a 40-yard touchdown pass to Will Fuller with 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter to pull out a 34-27 win over the Cavaliers.
Kizer would finish the game completing eight of his 12 attempts for 92 yards and two scores. It was enough to inspire confidence in coach Brian Kelly.
“Now, Deshone has to run our football team and we feel good about it,” Kelley said after the game. “He's got great weapons around him and we saw that tonight.”
While Notre Dame had to scratch and claw its way to 2-0, Georgia Tech has been galloping past its opponents.
The Yellow Jackets have scored more than 60 points in each of their first two games, having downed Alcorn State, 69-6, before stinging Tulane, 65-10.
Led by Heisman candidate quarterback Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech ran for 439 yards to extend its streak of consecutive 250-yard rushing games to 15, the highest in the nation.
It’s been an impressive run for the Yellow Jackets, but coach Paul Johnson knows that the his team faces a taller task this weekend.
“I prefer to win every game 65-10,” Johnson said. “But we're definitely going to be stepping up the competition level.”
Backups come up big in Week 2
The ACC got bit hard by the injury bug in Week 1, but in Week 2 the backups spread their wings.
Virginia Tech quarterback Brandon Motley may have looked lost when he filled in for the injured starter Michael Brewer during the Hokies loss to No. 1 Ohio State in the season opener, but on Saturday he looked right at home behind center.
The sophomore QB completed 16 of his 24 pass attempts for 233 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions during the Hokies 42-3 victory over Furman.
More impressive was the effort turned in by Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey. The freshman passer was thrust into the starting role when star QB Terrel Hunt sustained a season-ending Achilles injury.
Playing in his first game as a starter, Dungey led the Orange to its first ACC victory of the year as he threw for 221 yards and two TDs to down Wake Forest, 30-17.
In Pittsburgh, the loss of Heisman hopeful running back James Conner was devastating, but so far Qadree Ollison has done a nice job of easing the pain. The freshman ran for 81 yards and a touchdown on 21 attempts to help the Panthers slide past Akron, 24-7.
ACC action heats up
Syracuse and Wake Forest kicked off ACC play last Saturday and the conference action will continue this week with two marquee matchups. On Thursday, No. 11 Clemson (2-0) will travel to Louisville (0-2) to take on the Cards at 7:30 p.m., while Boston College (2-0) will host No. 9 Florida State (2-0) at 8 p.m. on Friday night.